Author: Susan Fogwell
The day after I arrived in Singapore, I bought a two-day pass on the Hippo double decker bus. Hopping on and off the bus is the best way to get an overall view of the entire city. Okay, so it's touristy, but most DIY travelers do it, anyway.
Tourists flock to the ethnic enclave of Little India; this district boasts wall-to-wall colorful shop houses. Built in the 1920s, the restored shop houses have practically been obliterated by Singapore's high-rise office buildings and hotels. The two and three level buildings are painted in deep purples, reds and shocking yellows. The shops are on the ground level and living quarters above. At one time, taller shop houses represented the prosperity of their owners. The more money they made, the higher the shop house.
For a moment, I thought I was actually in India. The entire neighborhood was teeming with Indians dressed in traditional garb, filling the sidewalks and crisscrossing the streets. I perused the various shops and bric-a-brac stalls selling bright silk and cotton saris, gold jewelry and spices. A mixture of curry and incense permeated the air with Hindi music playing throughout many of the shops. Locals buy Hindi music here and watch Bollywood movies in the park.
At one food stall, I ordered Masala Dosa – similar to a pancake with a spicy vegetarian filling. As with many other dishes, it was served on a banana leaf. ($5.00 USD) There are also sweet shops where I tried a Gulam Jamun – cream cheese balls dipped in syrup. ($1.00 USD)
On Sungei Road, I came across Thieves Market where hundreds of Indian and Bangladesh immigrants sell old junk, most of which is broken. A local told me, that at one time, if anyone ever had something stolen in Singapore, they would go straight to this market and find their stolen goods. I am sure that rings true for today, too. It is also wise to keep a watchful eye out for pickpockets.
Since Little India is considered the red light district of Singapore, it might be prudent to explore the shops and food stalls during the day. At night, it takes on a seedy atmosphere.
Moreover, if you have ever taken open space and green pastures for granted, try visiting Little India on the weekend. Thousands of construction workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and southern India congregate on the streets. It would be daunting trying to make your way through the mass crowds. If possible, visit on a weekday morning or early afternoon, before the heat becomes too uncomfortable.
Remember, Singapore is approximately 110 nautical miles north of the. Even for sun worshippers, the heat has to be taken into consideration.